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DHL will pay $8.7M to settle allegations it gave Black workers more dangerous assignments

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Along with reporting to a court-appointed monitor, delivery company DHL must pay $8.7 million to settle an almost 14-year-old, class-action racial discrimination lawsuit, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission announced on April 25. 

The money will go to 83 Black employees in Chicago who experienced the alleged discrimination and participated in the lawsuit. With the consent of both parties, former EEOC Commissioner Leslie Silverman will be the racial discrimination monitor for this class for a period of four years.

This lawsuit is not the first alleging racial bias against DHL Group: Last year, DHL’s supply chain division settled a $2.7 million suit in which plaintiffs alleged that the delivery company’s criminal history screening policy disproportionately affected Black and Hispanic job candidates. Per the complaint, DHL’s practices “perpetuate[d] gross racial disparities in the criminal justice.”

Heavy packages, dangerous routes: What Black workers alleged

The alleged racism at DHL was allegedly calculated and pervasive: DHL management “segregated” its Black and White employees, the EEOC said, and gave Black staffers “much heavier” dock work. 

While Black workers moved “large, heavy packages,” their White colleagues sorted letters, the agency said. 

Additionally, DHL allegedly assigned Black workers to delivery routes in neighborhoods with higher crime rates, compared to their White counterparts. Black workers “often witnessed crime and sometimes were victims of crime on their assigned routes,” the EEOC said.

“Just as unlawful”: EEOC condemns discrimination beyond pay gap

Gregory Gochanour, regional attorney for the agency’s Chicago district office, highlighted in an April 25 statement the fact that while this case is not about Black workers being paid less than their White peers or passed over for promotions, “segregating employees and giving them unequal work assignments based on their race is just as unlawful.” 

Karla Gilbride, general counsel for the EEOC, underscored the insidious nature of the route assignment allegations. 

“If an employer honors the requests of white workers to avoid certain parts of a city that are perceived as dangerous, but orders Black workers to continue working in those areas despite their concerns, the employer is telling Black workers that their lives and their safety concerns are valued less than the lives and concerns of their white coworkers,” Gilbride said in a statement.

“That is plainly unlawful,” she added.

Looking ahead: Racial discrimination complaint monitoring

As a part of the consent decree, DHL must do the following:

  • Train its workforce on the federal laws that prohibit racial discrimination
  • Provide Silverman and the EEOC with periodic reports on work assignments and racial discrimination complaints
  • Allow Silverman to review the efficacy of DHL’s complaint procedures, the quality of its complaint investigations and the status of all required trainings

Gochanour expressed confidence that the consent decree’s measures “will ensure that DHL’s employees are treated equally going forward.”

In response to the settlement, EEOC Chair Charlotte A. Burrows underscored the historical significance of the case’s details. Noting that it was “once commonplace” for American employers to have segregated workplaces, she emphasized that the EEOC is determined to make segregation “a thing of the past” by “vigorously” enforcing the Civil Rights Act.

“Sixty years ago this July, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 outlawed racially segregated workplaces,” Burrows added. “Some employers still fail to get the message.”

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